International Donors’ Conference “Together for the people in Türkiye and Syria” 20 March 2023

March 21, 2023

Photo: UNDP Syria

As prepared for delivery.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations development system -- which is also strongly represented here -- we are all here to express our sincere gratitude to the European Commission and the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for organizing this vital and extremely timely event as communities across Türkiye and Syria face the darkest moments.

The video just shown of Türkiye not only reminded me of some of those images in the first few hours: that hand holding onto someone buried under rubble; the sheer terror in the face of children. I think we all know that an earthquake that strikes and destroys, literally within seconds, entire lives, families -- it changed not only Türkiye but I think also our appreciation of what can happen to a nation in the blink of an eye.

In Türkiye, it is estimated that 3.3 million people are displaced country-wide with approximately two million people living in temporary accommodation. 

Some 650,000 housing units -- apartments and houses -- have been destroyed. 

In Syria, over half-a-million people have been made homeless by the earthquakes.

In the wake of 12 years of conflict and crisis, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria was already at its highest levels even before this terrible earthquake hit at more than 15 million people while over 90% of the population in Syria today lives below the poverty line.

Still the largest internal displacement crisis in the world, the affected areas in Syria had large populations of Internally Displaced People while Türkiye has generously hosted 3.7 million Syrians under temporary protection over the past decade.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has so often said, it is an extraordinary gesture of generosity and solidarity. 

Taking the situation as a whole, millions of survivors are currently suffering from the trauma of the disaster and require support that goes beyond the emergency.

The EU and its Member States have demonstrated their leadership by rapidly responding to the disaster.

The United Nations system continues to deploy emergency teams and relief operations in both countries -- our response has prioritized displaced persons, healthcare, food security, and vulnerable populations including women and children. 

As we speak, millions of people across Türkiye and Syria are struggling to get a roof over their head or indeed still put indeed food on the table.

To this end, the United Nations has launched a $1 billion humanitarian appeal to provide lifesaving assistance to 5.2 million people in Türkiye in areas such as food security, education, water, public health, and shelter: a solid foundation of humanitarian support that will advance human development.

Regrettably, the Türkiye appeal is still less than 16.8% funded as of today.

-Similarly, the UN has launched a humanitarian appeal of almost $398 million to provide lifesaving assistance to nearly 4.9 million people in Syria for a period of three months. 

As of 16 March 2023, the Syria Flash Appeal has received $289.4 million or 72.8% of the total amount required, which we hope will be complemented by badly needed funds for the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, which currently is only 5% funded. 

The UN is committed to supporting all affected people and communities across Syria.

Your leadership and support is needed. 

We appreciate the flexibility demonstrated by various parties on allowing special waivers while facilitating access: we encourage the relevant parties to continue providing this essential support at this crucial moment in time. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The decisions we make now will literally impact communities for decades to come.

It is a pivotal moment to directly address immediate humanitarian needs as well as urgent efforts to build back resilience through an early recovery approach that must begin now; and with the people affected. 

Access to basic services and livelihoods is a must for a more sustainable recovery.

If not, we will also simply continue to perpetuate cycles of vulnerability.

That means not only providing emergency assistance to enable people to survive from day-to-day, always the number one priority. 

It also involves contributing the funds they will need to start returning to normality; to start working again; and to start piecing back together the communities that lie in ruins around them. 

In this respect, I would also like to make specific mention of the Turkiye Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction Assessment led by the Government, which is being supported by the UN family, the European Union, and the World Bank; and the Syria Early Recovery Needs Assessment led by the United Nations family -- both efforts aim to provide a much clearer picture of the recovery pathways.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the United Nations family, we are committed to step up and deploy our assets across the development and humanitarian spheres to stand with; and deliver for communities in Türkiye and Syria.

To our international donors -- we count on your leadership and solidarity and generosity to help generate significant financing for recovery-focused initiatives that can have an immediate, profound, and ultimately long-lasting impact.

That includes sometimes the basic things: debris removal; the restoration of income and livelihood-generating opportunities, rebuilding the bakery, the workshop; the provision of vital services -- that are so critical in such a situation – by local governments, by city authorities, especially to the most vulnerable; the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure; and the preservation of threatened cultural heritage, of which there are such extraordinary examples in these affected areas. 

At this tragic moment for the people of Türkiye and Syria, your support will help to light the candles that will illuminate a way out of this darkness. 

And these candles cannot flicker; they must light the path to recovery.

Or as President Erdoğan said in his address just now: the real struggle starts now and we are all part of it.

Thank you.